Historic Detroit

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Walter O. Briggs House

Built in 1915, this mansion was owned by Walter O. Briggs. He lived here with Mrs Briggs until he passed away in 1952.

Mr. Briggs received his education in public schools in his hometown of Ypsilanti and in Detroit. Born on February 27, 1877, to Mr. and Mrs. Rodney D. Briggs, his father was a railroad engineer. Following in his father's footsteps, Briggs began working for the Michigan Central Railroad as a car checker at the age of 14. He later joined the C. H. Little Co. in the cement business as a foreman in late 1902, and then moved to the B. F. Everett Co. in 1904, where he quickly rose to vice president and general manager.

Briggs married Jane Elizabeth Cameron in 1904. His tenure with the Everett Co. honed his business acumen and leadership skills. When the company established a new firm, it sold the original one to Briggs in 1909, which he expanded into the vast Briggs Manufacturing Company. Under his leadership, the company grew to include nine plants in Detroit, four in other cities, and one in England.

Briggs served as the president and general manager of the company until 1937 when he became chairman of the board. The company supplied car bodies to several automotive giants, including Chrysler Corp. and Packard Motor Car Co., and had formerly produced bodies for Ford Motor Co., including those for the Model T.

In addition to his business ventures, Briggs was a passionate baseball fan. His frustration at not being able to secure World Series tickets in 1907 led him to become involved in baseball management. He eventually became half-owner of the Detroit Tigers, taking over after Frank Navin's death in 1935. Under Briggs' ownership, the Tigers experienced success, including winning the pennant in 1940.

Outside of business and baseball, Briggs was involved in various philanthropic endeavors. He was a trustee for the American Foundation for the Blind, contributed to the Detroit Community Fund, and supported the Detroit Zoological Park. Briggs was also known as a well-rounded sportsman, with interests in music, theater, and membership in numerous clubs and organizations reflecting his diverse interests.

Last updated 02/04/2024